Methods: This qualitative, narrative study uses data from in-depth interviews with 29 parenting youth in foster care who are participating in an evaluation of the Illinois Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care Home Visiting Pilot. The sample includes young mothers who were in foster care and either pregnant or parenting a child under age one at the time of enrollment. The study sample is predominantly first time mothers (n = 28) who are African American (n=25). Their ages range from 15 to 21-years-old.
Findings: Placement instability is a key feature of the transition to parenthood for pregnant and parenting youth in care. Young mothers make meaning of frequent placement moves, going “on the run” to see family and friends, or being placed far from their children who are, in a handful of cases (N=6), also in foster care. Among this sample of young mothers of color, navigating placement instability shapes parenting in terms of accessing consistent support services, proximity to social supports, and accessing material resources both inside and outside of the child welfare system.
Conclusion and Implications: This study contributes to our empirical knowledge of the transition to parenthood for young parents in care, particularly for young mothers of color who fact multiple forms of marginalization, including at the intersections of race, class, and child welfare system involvement. One of the tenets of the reproductive justice framework is ensuring the human right to parent in safe and healthy environments. The findings suggest a need for child welfare providers to promote placement stability and to reduce barriers to social support for young parents and their infants. They also highlight the need for additional investigation of how young parents experience child welfare system policies and practices during the transition to parenthood.